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New rules for beginning drivers include a ban on cell phone use

Increased requirements take effect next year for teenagers younger than 17 years old who apply for driving permits and driver’s licenses after Jan. 1.

State representative Bob Brookens of Marion challenges parents to take responsibility for promoting safe driving by their teenage children.

“What thinking parent would willingly put their child out there on the road without supervision?” he said. “Why would any parent not want their child to abide by the law or let them go out at night without safety instruction? Our duty is to raise them, not be their best buddy.”

A new restriction bans those with instruction permits, farm permits, and restricted licenses from using wireless communication devices while driving except to report illegal activity or to summon emergency help.

The modified HB 2143 bill defines “wireless communication device” as “any wireless electronic communication device that provides for voice or data communication between two or more parties.”

Other changes include:

Instruction permit. The minimum age for application will remain at 14 for an instruction permit, but the licensed adult accompanying the minor must be at least 21 years old. The bill currently in force does not specify a certain adult age.

Farm permit. A farm permit will be available from age 14 until age 17, changed from age 16. Farm permit holders will continue to be allowed to drive in connection with any farm work and to drive to and from school. Permit holders who are 16 or holder can drive anywhere between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. and at other times while going to or from authorized school activities.

Restricted license. An applicant for a restricted license must have held an instruction permit for at least one year instead of the current six months. Applicants younger than 16 must have completed driver’s education.

The bill requires a 16-year-old applicant to have completed at least 50 hours of adult-supervised driving, with 10 of those hours at night. Twenty-five of those hours can come from taking driver’s education.

Operating under a restricted license, a 16-year-old or older driver can drive at any time from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. and while going to and from authorized school activities.

Fifteen-year-old applicants will continue to be required to have had 25 hours of adult-supervised driving in addition to driver’s education. The holder of a restricted license or farm permit who is younger than 16 cannot have nonsibling minor passengers. That requirement remains unchanged.

Those 16 years old and older may have one passenger younger than 18 who is not a member of the driver’s immediate family.

If holders of farm permits and restricted licenses who are at least 16 years old have not violated any restrictions for at least six months, certain restrictions such as limits on nonsibling passengers and time of day when driving may be lifted.

On the other hand, penalties can be imposed on individuals who violate terms of a permit or restricted license. Penalties are spelled out in the law, including a requirement that the permit or restricted license be suspended after the holder is charged with two or more accidents.

Current law allows for suspension but does not require it.

After Jan. 1, a first-time applicant for a full license must be at least 17 years old; current law allows full licensure at 16. The applicant who is younger than 18 must have completed at least 50 hours of supervised driving, with 10 of those hours at night, as in current law.

Marion County Sheriff Robert Craft said he has seen very few problems with beginning drivers in this area.

He said designating a minimum age for an accompanying adult will make it easier to enforce that provision.

He said restrictions on cell phone use are good but other electronics such as CD players and ipods can be distractions as well.

Craft agreed with Brookens that parents have the greatest responsibility to influence their teenagers to follow the rules.

“It will take time to sort this out and see exactly how it plays out,” Craft said.

Last modified Dec. 23, 2009

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